In fitting fashion for this season, it appears the Washington Capitals will be closing out their 2021 with another NHL debut. Lucas Johansen is poised to draw in on the blue line against the Red Wings on Friday.
Washington recalled Johansen from the taxi squad while re-assigning Alex Alexeyev, who played in his first career game on Wednesday.
Johansen earned the promotion from Hershey to Washington’s taxi squad after the team saw Martin Fehervary, Nick Jensen, Justin Schultz and Dennis Cholowski enter the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol. And now, after five years in the AHL, it looks like Johansen’s time has finally come to play in the Show.
A strong-skating left-hand shot, Johansen is a solid puck-moving defenseman with a strong point shot and good awareness at both ends of the ice. The 6-2, 176-pound blueliner can stack up well against his opponents and battle for the puck but is still improving his physicality.
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Johansen, the younger brother of Nashville center Ryan, went to Washington in the first round of the 2016 NHL Draft. After three seasons with the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets, Johansen made the transition to AHL’s Hershey Bears.
Despite strong training camps, Johansen has not been able to win a spot on the Capitals’ opening night roster. Plus, a surplus of LHD and players like Fehervary passing him on the depth chart made call-ups hard to get. Not only that, but Johansen has also had his run-ins with injuries.
In 155 total AHL games, the 24-year-old has a total of 12 goals and 52 points and is a minus-8. Through 22 games this season, Johansen has been solid, putting up three goals and seven points for Hershey.
It appears that Johansen will likely slot in where Alexeyev did on that third pairing with Matt Irwin. Alexeyev had a solid showing in his debut, managing a hit and two PIM in 10:35 minutes of ice time.
Johansen will be the eighth rookie to make his NHL debut for the Capitals this season, joining Hendrix Lapierre and Hershey teammates Alexeyev, Brett Leason, Aliaksei Protas, Axel Jonsson-Fjallby, Zach Fucale and Joe Snively. He is also the second rookie to debut against Detroit this season. Fucale played in his first game in Hockeytown back in November. It was a memorable one, with him recording 21 saves for a shutout.